SMART gas and electricity meters are being offered by energy suppliers to everyone in Scotland and the rest of
Great Britain – at no extra cost. But not everyone is aware that they are more than simple energy monitors.

Many are aware that smart technology is intended to make our lives easier by making everyday tasks quicker and may already know about the benefits of the digital gas and electricity meters that send automatic meter readings to the energy supplier and also provide near-real time information about electricity and gas use in pounds and pence, which in turn can help to reduce energy use around the home.

They also, however, play a crucial role in helping Britain to meet its commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

The UK government’s ambitious pledge to cut these emissions means that we need to rapidly de-carbonise our whole energy system.

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The foundations of this were built 100 years ago and the last major upgrades to our energy system happened long before windfarms and solar panels appeared across the countryside and off our shores.

It was a system built for coal power stations, which were expected to provide a constant supply of energy to the country.

Renewable energy, by contrast, is intermittent: it relies on the wind blowing and the sun shining. While Britain is gradually becoming increasingly reliant on renewable energy – and recently recorded its second week without burning any coal for power – we cannot become fully green without making the grid smart enough to predict, prepare for and respond to the challenge of this irregular supply.

A smarter, digital grid will have the flexibility to balance energy supply and demand, taking into account the intermittent nature of renewables, so reducing the risk of spikes and blackouts.

This digital technology allows for two-way communication between energy suppliers and consumers, with smart meters creating a contact point in every home. They provide the grid with information to add more capacity when needed, change our electricity consumption patterns and make it easier to add electric vehicles (EVs), solar panels, wind turbines and heat pumps to the energy system.

We all want an energy grid that is geared to the future, not to the past and to achieve big changes sometimes we have to start with small ones. Smart meters can’t solve climate change on their own, but with the smarter, more efficient energy system they help to create, they are a start.

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The Herald’s Climate for Change initiative supports efforts being made by the Scottish Government with key organisations and campaign partners. Throughout the year we will provide a forum in The Herald newspaper, online at herald.scotland.com and in Business HQ magazine, covering news and significant developments in this increasingly crucial area.

If you are interested in contributing editorially or interested in becoming a Climate for Change partner, please contact Stephen McTaggart on 0141 302 6137 or email stephen.mctaggart@heraldandtimes.co.uk